Debra Prinzing

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Coming to Southern California

Friday, April 5th, 2013

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Thank you, Constance Spry

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Yes, I have her signature in my used copy of "Flowers in House and Garden," published in 1937.  Signed in pencil, the inscription is dated February 1939.

Yes, I have her signature in my used copy of “Flowers in House and Garden,” published in 1937. Signed in pencil, the inscription is dated February 1939.

 

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the first celebrity floral designer, Constance Spry.

The famous Mrs. Constance Spry

The famous Mrs. Constance Spry

If you haven’t heard about her, check out the newish biography called The Surprising Life of Constance Spry, by Sue Shephard (2011). Mrs. Spry was at her peak of popularity between the two World Wars, and I loved reading about her magnificent cutting garden that supplied her London studio and shop called Flower Decoration in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

Speaking of Flower Decoration, that is the name of a volume that Mrs. Spry wrote in 1933. Re-issued in 1993, you can find it online used, filled with her strong opinions, witticisms, and black-and-white photographs of floral arrangements. These are a little dated, of course, but what stands out to me is the eclectic lineup of ingredients, which includes many flowers, foliage and edibles that today’s hip floral designers think they’ve popularized.

Guess what? Mrs. Spry did it first!

The rest of us have just discovered the ingredients with which she created lush, naturalistic, unfussy bouquets. Cherry tomatoes, grape clusters, gourds, fig leaves, sea-kale, agapanthus seed heads, amaranth, rhubarb and artichokes are wonderful floral elements showing up in couture bouquets and magazine spreads. But Constance Spry used them first – and that’s quite fun to RE-discover.

READ MORE…

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Great plates

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Here’s a photo of my dining room wall, where I’ve organized a medley of rounded objects, mostly plates and one vintage mirror that I inherited as a girl in the 1960s:

Debra’s dining room wall. The paint color is aptly named “Pod,” chosen by my design guru, Jean Zaputil.

This is what you do when a large wall needs to be filled and one does not own large artwork! Each of the pieces has a back-story. Clockwise, from left:

  1. Round gold-framed mirror, given to my parents and migrated to my possession since the 1960s.
  2. Dark purple pottery plate, a gift from my college roommate and her former girlfriend.
  3. Celadon plate, imprinted with a real lotus leaf, gift from same college roommate, who purchased it for me when we visited Lotusland.
  4. Red-and-teal platter, a gift from the owner of Fireworks Gallery, years ago, as a thank you after I wrote a story about her Pioneer Square shop.
  5. Another wonderful celadon plate, a gift from my friends Kathleen Brown and Sara Anderson when they visited us from DC years ago.
  6. Teal, white and purple platter, hand-formed and painted by the Berkeley artist Keeyla Meadows. I purchased it from her on a visit to her garden in 2008.
  7. Tiny vintage Majolica plate, purchased from an antique shop in Madison Park.

Let’s just say the men in my household were less than excited to see this installation. The day after I created my plate-platter vignette, my spouse left for work, saying: Please do NOT hammer any more nails into the wall today!

So the following weekend, we were in Chicago visiting our college-aged son for family weekend. We had breakfast at a cool neighborhood spot and what do you think I noticed on the wall there?! Check it out: 

Nice plates!
Many small plates add up to one large work of art!

I am definitely onto something. You can be, too. Plates or dishes, inexpensive plate hangers & a few nails. Voila! 

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Julius pot from Potted gets its groove back

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Pot-ted's JULIUS Pot

The Julius pot is back — and with it a tale about just how hard it’s becoming for California designers to manufacture their latest looks locally. 

In 2009 Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray, owners of Potted in Atwater Village, introduced the Julius — “a modern, sexy pot with a curve and a little pedestal,” Gutierrez said, and a tribute to the late architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Back then, Potted worked with a small, local ceramics factory to produce the planter. “We did a couple runs, and then he went out of business,” Gutierrez said.

In its short life, the retro planter was popular with landscape designers who liked how it graced the poolside and the patio. The Julius was used at the Geffen Playhouse and in the model residences at the W in Hollywood.

“It was our best seller, but suddenly we couldn’t find anyone locally to make it,” Gutierrez said.

Pot-ted's Circle Pot, inspired by a mid-century hanging ashtray!

So the Julius was shelved as Gutierrez and Gray looked for another local manufacturer who could turn out consistent colors and forms in small quantities. “Every year, the number of Los Angeles ceramics factories has dwindled,” Gutierrez said. “And because of its size, the larger Julius design doesn’t even fit into most local kilns, so that made it even more difficult.”

Potted recently teamed up with Steve Gainey to reintroduce the Julius in aqua, avocado and matte or glossy white ($149 for a 16-inch-diameter pot, $89 for a 12-inch). Gainey is a third-generation California ceramics maker and president of LaVerne-based Gainey Ceramics, a 60-year-old venture that is one of the last ceramics factories in Southern California. He said he recently changed his business strategy after losing a large percentage of his commercial customers.

“My established banking, real estate and shopping mall market has gone away, but we’re a versatile facility that’s able to change,” Gainey said. “I decided we needed to focus on consumer products and reach out to artists in the ceramics community who have no ability to produce their designs otherwise.”

The Potted partnership is one of several similar arrangements with local artists who appreciate that Gainey is high-quality and homegrown. Gainey said he also has started producing his own designs, including a vase called X-Factor, which the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona recently added to its permanent collection.

Gainey’s embrace of the consumer market follows the national success of Janek Boniecki, who in 1998 acquired the original Bauer Pottery facility in Highland, reissuing classic Bauer pieces for the tabletop and garden, as well as the work of other artists.

A rainbow of retro colors for the Circle Pot.

I am seriously in love with the Wedding Cake Planter!

Gainey Ceramics also produces Potted’s 12-inch Circle pot ($89), right, inspired by a 1960s hanging ashtray that Gray found at a flea market. Suspended from an 18-inch stainless-steel cable, “it’s perfect for displaying succulents like burrow tails, string-of-pearls or an echeveria,” Gutierrez says.

Earlier this year, Potted and Gainey introduced a matte-white Wedding Cake planter, a three-piece, stacking flowerpot, below. The bottom piece serves as a saucer, while the top and middle “layers” are deep enough to hold plants. The set ($125) measures 11 inches in diameter and is 9.25 inches tall.

“This is our take on the cake platter as a tabletop planter,” Gutierrez says. “Whenever you can lift something up slightly with a pedestal, it looks lighter and fresher.”

Potted plans to develop more products that will be produced by Gainey Ceramics. But Gutierrez is circumspect about the challenge of remaining local while facing the inevitable competition of less expensive knockoffs. “We can’t compete with China on price,” she said. “We can only compete with our originality.”

Potted, 3158 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 665-3801.

Gainey Ceramics retail operations, 1200 Arrow Highway, La Verne; (909) 593-3533 or (800) 451-8155.

Link to LA Times @Home story 
— Debra Prinzing

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On location with Jamie Durie for Better Homes & Gardens

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

On location in Los Angeles with Jamie Durie - photographed by Edmund Barr

On his popular HGTV show The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, stylemaker Jamie Durie uses interior and architectural design tricks to amp up dreary backyards.

By the end of a whirlwind 30-minute episode, you’re energized and inspired. Of course, nimble edits have compressed a couple of days of dirt, sweat and (possibly) tears into a dreamy landscape for the small screen. But still, there’s always a takeaway, a “lesson” that catches the viewer’s imagination. “I could try that,” you say to yourself. “Oh, what a simple way to disguise that ugly wall,” or “That’s brilliant!”

Some of the projects conjured by Jamie and his design team are complicated and require professional assistance to execute. But many others fall into the DIY mode: affordable and requiring only a discerning eye to add polish, such as using color, texture or materials to unify otherwise disparate objects.

That’s one reason why I really wanted to see Jamie’s garden firsthand. When I visited his Los Angeles outdoor design laboratory (aka his humble backyard) last spring I loved what I saw.

My assignment was to interview Jamie and help produce the Better Homes & Gardens “Stylemaker” story that appears in the September issue – out on newsstands right now.

Art director Scott Johnson and I both flew into Los Angeles to work on the story. We were very fortunate to team up with LA photographer Edmund Barr and LA videographer Adam Grossman for the shoot. You can see my article and Edmund’s photos in the September issue; you can watch a fabulous how-to video with Jamie shot by Adam on BH&G’s digital edition. And a special thanks to Edmund for snapping this cozy portrait of Jamie and me, lounging in his outdoor living room. Fun, huh?

Many of Jamie’s best design concepts are ones he previously tried out for clients of Durie Design, his studio in Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles. Some have been executed on previous episodes of The Outdoor Room, or in the pages of his new book by the same name.

We zeroed in on the ideas that move plants away from the obvious “ground plane” and onto other surfaces, such as living walls, green roofs and in the unexpected niches of garden structures. Jamie’s passion for plants is contagious – and you can see it spill over onto BH&G’s pages. Here’s an excerpt:

Outer Sanctum: HGTV star Jamie Durie uses unexpected designs to turn the barest backyards into green oases. 

“Once you create an outdoor room, you’ll fall in love with your backyard again,” says Jamie Durie, the star of HGTV’s The Outdoor Room.

A popular designer and TV personality in his native Australia as well as North America, Jamie encourages everyone who has a small patch of earth — or even just a patio or deck– to re-imagine their exterior environment as a functional, eco-friendly living space.

Jamie combines a passion for plants, sustainability, and the outdoors into a zeal for landscaping. He grounds his designs in green practices, using local materials, plants that tolerate the region’s climate, and clever techniques to put plants in almost every imaginable nook and cranny. Hanging planters cover his fences and walls, and pergolas support green roofs. Surrounding yourself with nature this way “can improve your health and inspire positive thinking,” says Jamie, who meditates every morning on the patio outside his bedroom.

Check out Jamie's new book for more tips and ideas.

Recently settled in Los Angeles, Jamie used the same advice he offers clients: Increase living space by creating more rooms outdoors rather than indoors. Instead of enlarging his modest 1950s house, he coaxed his once-ordinary backyard to live larger, with outdoor spaces variously designed for cooking, dining, lounging, and chatting. “Your spaces should accommodate your life,” he says. “Not the other way around.”

 “I have a new outlook when I open the doors,” Jamie says. “This house feels bigger than it is, since the lush garden is part of my home.”

The popular HGTV host and landscape designer shares his ideas, techniques and recent projects in Jamie Durie’s The Outdoor Room (Harper Collins, $25.99), a guidebook to creating beautiful exterior spaces.

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Inspiration comes in many forms

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

A spring bouquet in a Mason Jar inspires . . .

The other day, while talking with my friend Lorene (one of the most creative people I have known since we were college classmates together), I described some of the cool design ideas I’ve spotted in the past few weeks. My own enthusiasm for all this visual stimulation made me realize my “list” could be a blog post here.

After seeing these ideas in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, my own idea-bank has been rekindled. Witnessing the talent of others doesn’t ever make me envious. No, it makes me want to up my own game and push myself further to do something wonderfully better as a writer, a gardener, a designer.

The type of inspiration I’ve seen lately has been truly exquisite. Great design is great design, whether in the garden, the home, or the restaurant. When you see it, you know it!

There may be no other response than to gaze in awe and say – WOW. But if your muse can be stirred or awakened by these ideas, by all means, use them as a starting point for your own artistic expression. I hope you enjoy where all this beauty takes you!

A TEENAGER WINS

17-year-old garden designer Courtney Goetz won a Gold Medal at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Her mom, designer and writer Sue Goetz, is one of her influences.

At last month’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, one of my most favorite annual events, I was invited by Julie Chai of Sunset Magazine to help “judge” the Sunset Outdoor Living Award.

We were smitten by a small but extremely innovative garden called “Paradise (to be) Regained . . . borrowing Thoreau,” which we honored with the Sunset award.

The critera recognizes a garden that exemplifies “fresh, useful and achievable ideas.” In this instance, the designer was 17-year-old Courtney Goetz.

Courtney, the daughter of garden designer and writer Sue Goetz, grew up in the garden-making business. In 2005, when she was 11, Courtney helped mom Sue design a display garden named “A Child of the Garden Grows .  .  .  .” for this same show. Now, she has made a garden herself – and guess what? In addition to the Sunset Award, the show judges honored Courtney with a Gold Medal.

This half-circle garden floor treatment by Courtney Goetz shows how to pair salvaged metal grates with colorful groundcovers to create a "welcome mat" at the entry to a garden shelter.

As her Senior Thesis Project for Gig Harbor High School, Courtney wanted her design to be all about “recycling, re-purposing, and ‘re-characterizing’ used materials for use in the garden,” she says. “My goal and intent for this garden is to have green ideas for everyone to instill in their lives. I want the message to get out that not everyone can buy solar panels or hybrid cars, but anyone can and will make a difference by using a little bit less and utilizing what we already have.”

One of the many wonderful – and really clever — details of Courtney’s display garden was the checkerboard “floor” treatment, combining recycled metal grates with ground covers and rocks.

We loved this idea as a modern twist on a “welcome mat.” Courtney selected varieties of sedum and sempervivums in gold and dark green, as well as smooth rocks and the metal grates. It all adds up to a really gorgeous detail in the garden.

Look for exciting things to come from this young talent. We can’t wait to see more!

ROUGH AND SMOOTH TEXTURES

Openings between each paver makes room for a permeable detail of smoth stones.

Design detail

Another wonderful “floor” treatment appeared in a garden called “Wrinkle in Time,” designed by Karen Stefonick of Karen Stefonick Design. Her garden won the Best in Show Award, also called the “Founder’s Cup.”

Since I was able to tour it up close during the judging, I realized how truly creative Karen is when it comes to working with landscaping materials. She devised a patio using two simple ingredients: Concrete Pavers and Tumbled Stone.

Look closely at this pattern created by the slightly offset 1-by-2 foot concrete pavers. By staggering their placement and filling a 2-inch gap at either end of each paver with small rocks, Karen has accomplished two things.

First, she uses the texture of stone to contrast with the smooth concrete, which results in an attractive pattern. Second, this treatment turns a patio into a permeable surface for collecting rainwater into the ground rather than allowing it to stream down to the curb and disappear. Very cool!

BIRTHDAY BOUQUET

What a gorgeous grouping of flowers and vases!

During all the Flower Show activity, including giving three talks in two days, I almost forgot to celebrate my birthday. But thankfully, my friends and family didn’t forget.

Flower detail

One of the best surprises was the delivery of flowers from a local West Seattle shop called Fleurt Studio.

The gift-giver was my sister-in-law Sandra B. Henriquez. Her touching gesture of sending flowers was made more amazing because instead of resorting to the generic, 1-800 route, Sandi did her homework to find a local flower shop that offers unique, one-of-a-kind gift bouquets. She called (long-distance from Washington, DC) and spoke with Samantha, the owner, and discussed exactly what would be included in the delivery.

And here’s what arrived: A “floralscape,” an eclectic grouping of five differently-sized vases holding mostly purple and plum ingredients. I loved the whimsical inclusion of two canning jars, a bud vase, a vintage bottle and a miniature glass cup. Together, they created a floral display that no single bunch could equal. Magical, huh?

LOS ANGELES VIBE

Stunning!

After February’s Flower Show madness, March welcomed a trip to Los Angeles, my former home town. Living there for the past four years was an amazing adventure, especially when it comes to learning about design with new eyes. The city, and in fact all of Southern California, was for me a big design graduate school – with lessons in architecture, industrial design, sculpture and history.

While living in LA, I spent a lot of time scouting homes and gardens for the Los Angeles Times HOME section, as well as visiting retail sources for plants, furniture, gardening accents and more.

Rolling Greens Nursery in Hollywood is one of my favorite haunts. It was the site of our Garden Design magazine Hollywood Issue party last April – one of those exciting moments when I said to myself: I can’t believe I’m living here and doing this type of work I love!

Teabags, thousands of them!

When I returned to LA last week to work on a photo shoot for Better Homes & Gardens, I took our art director Scott Johnson to visit Rolling Greens. I wanted him to see several of the area’s cool nurseries. We stocked up on some plants for the next day’s shoot, and poked around buying ourselves tiny agaves to bring home to our colder climes (Seattle for me; Des Moines, Iowa, for Scott – yes, I know. It’s really futile, but we try).

But the wow-factor occurred when I walked into the large space where cookbooks and culinary/gourmet products are typically sold. There along the far wall hung a new installation that I can only describe as a Tea Bag Curtain. One of the staffers told me that the artful treatment had just been hung by Rolling Greens creative director Angela Hicks and her crew.

Hundreds (maybe thousands!) of hand-dyed tea bags, attached to long strings create a beautiful semitransparent cascade, suspended from rods attached at the ceiling. I can only imagine how much time and care was taken to create this rosy-melon masterpiece.

Organic and delicate, this “curtain” is so charming. I am eager to figure out how to replicate it somehow. Simple ingredients paired with masterful execution . . . it adds up to something truly remarkable. This Tea Bag Curtain isn’t “selling product,” but who cares? It goes miles at saying to Rolling Greens customers: we care about design and we’re a place where you can be inspired.

ON TO NEW YORK CITY

Anthropologie's lavish zipper gown - look close and see how it was made with straight pins!

Here's how the crushed paper skirt emerges from the tight, pastel-colored bodice....

Only days after spending 48 hours in Los Angeles, I flew to New York City. I’ve previously written about visiting the awesome High Line Park, but here’s another visual treat, shown purely for its beauty and innovation.

I turned the corner on my way to the Chelsea Market, a huge warehouse-turned-hipster food mall, and there on the corner was a gorgeous Anthropologie window display.

Some super-creative designer turned a dressmaker’s form, yards of zippers, straight pins and crushed butcher paper into a fanciful ball gown. The way the separated zippers form the bodice so the gold and silver metallic zipper teeth sparkle in the light . . . dazzling. But at the top of each zipper, the “end” has been spiraled into a little rosette.

Just take a look and feast your eyes on the charming way a few simple ingredients become Cinderella’s new gown!

Now, go out and do something uninhibited and artistic today. I dare you! I’m going to try it myself.

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LA Times’ Top Home Design Stories of 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

This just in: the tally of the Los Angeles Times’ HOME section’s most highly viewed stories and galleries of the year. And – wow – 4 of the top 12 are stories that I was fortunate to discover and write for the newspaper.

Here they are – enjoy the inspiration:

Lara and David's Hollywood Regency Living Room - a delicious palette with a retro art, lamps and furnishings.

1. In Beverly Hills, a Hollywood Regency re-do created by TV personality Lara Spencer and her husband David Haffenreffer.

The Daily House in Glendale - an iconic Midcentury house.

2. The historic midcentury Daily House in Glendale, lovingly revived by attorney Chris Burusco.

The exterior of Paul and Cicek Bricault's master suite is planted with succulents - a "green" addition in Venice.

3. The growing green Venice house owned by Paul and Cicek Bricault, complete with succulent walls on the exterior of their master bedroom addition. PS, this story also logged in as one of the paper’s most-read Home & Garden pieces of 2010.

The Chartreuse House - in Venice - a bungalow-turned-modern home.

4. The charming, modern Chartreuse House, also in Venice, designed by Lisa Little of LayerLA and Victoria Yust/Ian McIlvaine of Tierra Sol y Mar. Gardens by Stephanie Bartron of SB Garden Design.

Even though I have relocated to Seattle, I continue to report on home design, interiors and architecture for the Los Angeles Times. I’m looking forward to 2011 – can’t wait to discover the great design the New Year brings.

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Have a Very Vintage Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Group glass jars and bottles (the older the better) into a little scene and top each one with a vintage Christmas ornament. Charming!

Balls and bottles that sparkle!

Since my return to Seattle five months ago, I’ve been enjoying my monthly excursions to some of our local antique and vintage shows. The talent and creativity of the artist-dealers I’ve met and patronized is utterly inspiring. Makes me want to dec-or-ate like crazy!

Here’s one clever display by Dawn Oscar, owner of Greatfindz.

You can find Dawn’s cool vintage and industrial items for the garden and home at the Sand Point Antique Show, the 2nd Saturdayz Vintage Show and through her Etsy.com store (see links at Dawn’s site).

Dawn gave me her permission to photograph a vignette of old-timey bottles topped with vintage glass ornaments. I love the greenish, milky and yellowing bottles of all shapes and sizes. Mixed with the painted glass baubles, it creates a pretty display that’s both nostalgic and modern in execution!

And PS, isn’t the wood furniture frame (minus stuffing and upholstery) the most alluring of display tables? Dawn took out the bottom of this child-sized love seat and replaced it with a mirror cut to size. If you had a huge fireplace hearth or a covered porch, wouldn’t this be a neat way to display art, pottery, flowers or plants? Well, I love it with the ornaments, too.

Happy Holidays – and enjoy the creativity a New Year inspires!

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Hoe, Hoe, Hoe: Vintage Garden Tools as Holiday Decor

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A Gardener's Holiday Welcome at Old Goat Farm

If you’re like many of my gardening friends who can’t resist the charming character of old farm implements or tools, you probably have a few elderly hand-trowels in your collection. I know I’m not the only one who actually begs, buys and forages for old nozzles, flower frogs, watering cans and metal implements for digging soil! 

Whether displayed on a shelf or hanging from a wall inside the potting shed, that slightly rusted, weathered and distressed garden trowel, cultivator, hoe or rake appeals to many of us because the paint is chipping and the handle is probably made from real wood and screws rather than plastic and staples. 

You might call them our holiday elves! In the kitchen with Greg Graves and Gary Waller

My pals Greg Graves and Gary Waller, owners of Old Goat Farm in Graham, Wash., are two such hunter-gatherers. 

It helps that the men acquired a Victorian farm house and a similarly pedigreed landscape (and a barn and several outbuildings) several years ago. Greg and Gary moved from the city to the country where they have created an appealing lifestyle-business that includes raising poultry, peacocks and goats (yes, there are a few goats here, even an “old” goat), propagating and selling unusual plants, and hosting legions of visitors to their Open Garden days in summertime and to their Holiday Teas in December. 

The farm house's irresistable covered porch overlooks the garden.

Gary, an award-winning floral designer, has amassed an impressive collection of holiday decorations (that’s what the barn is for – to store everything from santas and snowmen to ribbons, ornaments and lights). 

He and Greg decorate each room of the farmhouse with a specific Christmas theme and then invite their customers, friends, local senior groups and word-of-mouth partakers to attend their Holiday Teas.

People walk from room to room (bath included!), enjoy the highly-detailed decorations, sip a warm drink and sample the mouthwatering desserts. Greg tells me that Old Goat Farm will serve tea to 450 persons this month.

Two of the teas are fund-raisers for causes they support, but basically the entire endeavor is a gesture of community outreach. “We keep the price low because we don’t want to make it too costly for the senior groups to come,” Greg says. 

Here's Lorene, studying the tiny kitchen tree that's an ode to poultry on the farm (Gary hollowed-out all sorts of the eggs and decoupaged them with hen images).

One of Gary's hand-made egg ornaments.

Greg invited fellow garden writer Lorene Edwards Forkner and me to join last Friday’s tea when a last-minute cancellation opened up two slots at the table.

We donned our festive attire and drove to Graham/Orting. If you know about the city of Tacoma, the Graham/Orting area is due east of it. The Garden Conservancy-supported Chase Garden is a nearby horticultural destination. 

Let me set the scene up on our arrival: 

Festooned in garlands, plaid ribbons and old garden implements (!) the soft yellow farmhouse greets its guests. The entry wreath hangs from the front gate with a trowel and worn wood dibble (a planting device for enlarging seed or bulb holes). 

The front gate's wreath begins the decor theme with a trowel and dibble

Who wouldn’t love a huge covered porch that wraps around three sides of the 100-year-old Victorian residence? Each post is dressed in holiday finery, a pair of rusty old tools gathered up with an enormous lodge pole pinecone and the red-and-green plaid ribbon. 

The cheerful door decor has at its center a set of vintage child’s set of play tools – a rake and a shovel. Criss-crossed with more ribbon and cones, they welcomed our arrival (see photo at top). 

Front porch decor: love it!

A galvanized watering can becomes an impromptu vase, filled with greenery gathered from the wooded landscape. And we feel transported to a century ago (almost) while touring the garden and the home. 

One of our favorite destinations at Old Goat Farm is “Linda’s Garden,” designed by Greg to memorialize the late, dear friend to us all, Linda Plato.

We lost Linda five years ago this month, a premature death brought on by breast cancer. Linda and Greg met in horticulture school as they both began their second careers. They worked together at the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden (where Greg is still on the staff as head gardener). They traveled the world to see gardens. Lorene and I were just happy to be small stars in Linda’s orbit. And we miss her. 

In Linda's garden, the double boxwood topiaries line the path that leads to the garden shed.

Linda’s garden is an homage to topiary. For you see, Greg and Gary would never have moved here to Old Goat Farm if it was not for Linda dragging Greg out there six years ago to buy topiary from the former owner who was liquidating her stock.  As Greg tells the story on his web site: 

Story of Old Goat Farm
In December of 2004, quite by accident, we found this beautiful little place while plant shopping with our good friend Linda. It is located just outside of Orting, WA, tucked below Mt. Rainier. We fell in love with this place, and by March of 2005, we were the owners of Old Goat Farm.

It is kind of a throwback to a simpler time with its 100-year-old farmhouse and cute barn and nursery. The garden is dotted with topiaries which give it a magical quality. 

“Linda once said: ‘What’s better than a row of topiaries? A double-row of topiaries!,'” Greg explains.  And that’s why you will see double-boxwood balls, pyramids, ovoid shapes and cubes lining both sides of the pathway that loops through the shaded, secluded and peaceful Linda’s Garden. Hurrah! It never fails to put a smile on my face. Please enjoy the photos of our visit to Old Goat. May we all be so lucky to have people like Greg and Gary, Lorene, and our dear Linda pass through our lives!

A small Christmas scene adorns the front porch.

A cedar garland wraps around the porch columns and each is topped with a huge pinecone and more vintage tools.

The full view of the farmhouse front door. Naturally, it's RED!

The perky old goat welcomes visitors to the garden and nursery.

Here is the "old goat," carved from wood and sipping a mug of coffee in the garden.

One of the wonderful barn strutures.

The ancient, moss-covered apple trees, backlit by the dim December sun.

A topiary bunny of variegated box, a work in progress by Greg (and an homage to Linda).

A moss-covered "bench" resting on two piles of stones. Note the mahonia that has seeded itself in the rockery.

Yes, you can grow moss lawns here in the Pacific Northwest and this is one terrific example!

For amazing drama in the winter landscape, place an evergreen fern in an urn on top of a pedestal. Wow.

A circular stone "rug" that Greg recently added at the entry to Linda's garden - the ideal place to sit and be quiet.

Stone gabion pillars guard the entry path to Linda's garden.

Merry Christmas from Old Goat Farm. This is a miniature version, complete with sign, created by Gary Waller.

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New Garden Products for 2011 – Part Two

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Preserve the Harvest with Burgon & Ball's charming jam, marmalade, pickles and chutney jars.

Trend-spotters are reading the horticultural tea leaves these days.

It’s an annual practice that I remember so well from my newsroom career when, without fail, we reporters were asked to compile the obligatory “forecast” story. I covered retail, and you could imagine how loathe Seattle’s major retail CEOs were to tell me anything about the coming year when it was just days after Christmas and they hadn’t tallied up the current year’s performance.

But, alas, we all want a glimpse into the future. And that’s what going to industry trade shows can help reveal. A peek into the products, plants, tools and design items you may be seeing in 2011’s backyards.

This post continues with even more interesting offerings. Or the ones that caught my interest anyway. I welcome your reaction. Are these items you can see yourself purchasing for your garden? Do you even NEED more products? (That’s a long conversation, isn’t it?).

Here is the "sun" bracket from M Brace - simply brilliant!

I really enjoyed meeting Jill Plumb, a school teacher who came up with a brilliantly simple method of building raised beds.

Her product is called M Brace. It is a decorative steel corner bracket that holds lumber at a 45-degree angle WITHOUT HARDWARE (note: this is a big selling point for anyone who has dragged the electric drill and 100-foot-long orange extension cord out to the backyard to try and wrestle together a box for the tomatoes).

Here's Jill demonstrating the nifty packaging for a pair of brackets.

Jill told me that she got this “big idea” one day while re-loading paper napkins into a “slot” style napkin holder.

Something clicked and she saw in her mind’s eye how easy it would be to have a bracket that emulated that napkin holder. Just larger, more durable and also pretty. Several prototypes later, including the support of her students who she involved in the design process, packaging development and marketing, Jill’s M Brace is looking very professional and has already hit garden center shelves in some markets.

Made from recycled steel (natural or powder-coated), with decorative cut-outs including a squiggle, sun, carrot or bamboo fronds, the set of 4 brackets has a $165/set recommended retail price. Jill continues to offer new product ideas such as “edging” made from the leftover swirl pieces or plant stakes from the leftover carrot cutouts. Brilliant!

The Feeney 3-in-1 trellis, shown in a fan pattern

I spotted another clever system to corral plants – especially in this case, vines – in the Feeney Architectural Products booth.

A detail of the Somerset II Trellis

We see so much over-designed crap in the marketplace, which is one reason why I appreciated Feeney’s simple use of stainless steel cables to create a trellis for climbing plants. Feeney’s 3-in-1 Trellisis an easy-to-assemble wall-mount trellis kit with 1/8-inch diameter rods and special mounting components that can be configured into a Fan, Grid or Diamond design. This is a lightweight solution that does require measuring and drilling skills to install, but can turn a blah wall or fence into something quite beautiful. Just add a vine of your choice and voila! Something quite pretty. Suggested retail: $199.

Feeney also uses stainless steel cables in its inexpensive “It’s a Cinch” plant hanger and in a freestanding trellis panel kit. The Greenway Trellis has a frame of aluminum tubing and a square-grid pattern for the vines. The frame legs can be set in compacted gravel or concrete footings, or they can be base-mounted on a deck or patio. That square-grid pattern also shows up in the Somerset II Trellis, which has top and bottom powder-coated aluminum brackets. It is also a wall-mount system but a little larger than the 3-in-1.

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